The city of Lopburi is located around 154kms to the north of Bangkok, making this an ideal daytrip destination.
Lopburi Province (sometimes spelt Lop Buri) is home to a large number of amazing historical sites that truly allow visitors to gain a better understanding of Thailand’s rich past. Formerly known as Lawo, Lopburi fell under the control of several kingdoms over the centuries and, because of its strategic importance, always proved to be a notable trophy for any conquering army.
The city dates back more than 1,200 years and a large collection of remains have been found within this region of Thailand. Along with relics that hail from the Bronze Age all the way to the current Ratanakosin period, the area is also a Mecca for those who have an interest in history. This is all mixed in with the modern, calm atmosphere that pervades today, making Lopburi a very interesting place to visit.
Lopburi first became a notable area during the time of the Dvaravati Kingdom, which lasted between the sixth and 11th centuries. The name Lawo is believed to have derived from the ethnic group that first settled in the area – known as the Lawa, this group is believed to be related to the Mons of China. During the 10th century the town came under the command of the Khmers, whose distinctive style of architecture can still be seen today.
In the 13th century Thai people who had come from the north fought a great battle against the Khmers and Lopburi fell into the hands of the Thai kings. It was during the reign of King U-Tong that Lopburi really became notable. The King, who had established the Ayutthaya Kingdom, sent his son Ramesua to govern the city. The Prince oversaw the building of fortifications, moats and towers and the city reached its zenith in 1664, when King Narai the Great named Lopburi as Thailand’s second city and even resided there. He utilised both Thai and European architects, which led to an amazing mixture of architectural styles.
There are a large number of ruins and sites scattered around the area, and the main ones are worth seeking out, including Phra Narai Ratchaniwet; the palace of the former king, dating from the 17th century and restored in the 19th century. The palace grounds are fairly extensive and interesting to wander around. Wat Phra Ratana Mahathat is directly across from the railway station and was once the largest temple in the city, yet today all that remains are some towers, the wihan and a few chedis.
Wat Kakhon Kosa can be found nearby and dates from the 12th century, although sadly little remains of this once great temple today. The Prang Khaek is one of the most obviously Khmer structures, and has been recently restored. Another of these distinctive ‘prangs’ is Prang Sam Yot, which is one of the area’s better preserved set of towers. These towers originally represented the Hindu gods Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma, but today have Buddha images set into them. There are a number of other temple ruins dotted about this historic site that tell more about Lopburi’s auspicious past. Unfortunately, the rapidly growing modern city that can be found around the ruins has all but obscured them from decent photographic views.
As well as all the architectural wonders that permeate the city, Lopburi is also notable for its Sap Lanka Wildlife Sanctuary, which can be found in the north of the city, while a side attraction in Lopburi is the monkeys. The food offerings that took place in San Phra Kan drew the monkeys from the forests and these cheeky simians have almost taken over popular attractions, such as the Phra Prang Sam Yoy. The sunflower blooming is an added attraction that makes Lopburi famous and the fields can be seen on Highway 21, about 45kms from Lopburi, and are best viewed between November and January.
Accommodation in Lopburi
Asia Lopburi Hotel: Conveniently close to the Phra Narai Ratchaniwet with decent rooms and two Chinese restaurants. Tel: (036) 618 894.
Taipei Hotel Lopburi: Located nearby and also has decent rooms. Tel: (036) 411 523.
Sri Indra Hotel: Near Wat Nakhon Kosa and comes with large, clean rooms. Tel: (036) 411 261.
Getting to Lopbui
Getting to Lopburi is a relatively simple affair. The trip by car from Bangkok takes around two hours and is highway all the way. Air-conditioned coaches leave from Bangkok’s Northern Bus Terminal (Mochit) every half hour (from 05:30 to 20:30) for 85 baht. Trains (three hours) leave Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong Railway Station several times a day for 43 baht, though are only third class.
Once you arrive in modern Lopburi, you will need to find your way westward. It is possible to catch one of the regular songthaew minibuses that ply the route.